Facts about the animal kingdom

How to Identify a Dog's Breed

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: July 16, 2017
How to Identify a Dog's Breed

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Increasing numbers of people are choosing to adopt animals from kennels or shelters rather than buying them in order to save them from being put down. Whilst pedigree dogs can sometimes be found there, it's true that it is more common to find cross-breed dogs that can't be identified.

It's quite easy to identify a Bull Terrier, a Beagle or a Husky, but most of us dog-loving amateurs are confused by the sheer number of new breeds that continue to appear as a result of cross-breeding. Below, AnimalWised will help you learn how to identify the breed of a dog.

  1. Look at the dog's features
  2. Study the dog's behavior
  3. See a list of dog breeds
  4. Talk to your vet
  5. Breed is unimportant

Look at the dog's features

In order to identify a dog you should start with the basics; simply observe what the dog looks like, part by part. To do this you should study the following features:

  • Hair color and type: See if the hair is hard, long, short or curly, and take note of its predominant color.
  • Ear and tail type: There are many ear types, such as long and floppy, pricked, round-tipped or hooded ears. There are also many types of tails, such as curly, docked or sickle tails.
  • Size: You'll need to wait for it to grow a bit if it's a puppy, but you can rule out certain breeds by looking at its height and weight.
  • Head: There are square, domed or flattened heads, and those which face up or down. The type of nose also varies according to the breed.

Once you've checked all these features, all you'll need to do is research the pedigree dogs that display similar features to that of your own dog. At the very least you'll have been able to rule out lots of breeds, and you'll have a rough list of breeds from which your dog may derive from. Or, if your dog is a pedigree, you will find out what breed it is directly.

How to Identify a Dog's Breed - Look at the dog's features

Study the dog's behavior

There are many dog breeds which have particular habits and behaviors associated to them, which can also help you work out what sort of dog you have. Observe the dog's characteristics.

For example, are they a playful dog or quiet, sedentary and likes lying around all day? Are they a controlling guard dog, or are they submissive and get excited when new people enter the home? The above information will help you to further narrow down the possible dog breeds.

How to Identify a Dog's Breed - Study the dog's behavior

See a list of dog breeds

When you've worked out what your dog is like on a physical and mental level, go and research dogs similar to your own on the Internet, or in a catalogue of dog breeds. For example, if you've narrowed the breed of your dog down to the final two or three, you could search for them in our list of dog breeds and find out if you're correct. This can be done by checking their photos and reading the information about them.

Something similar could be done with the breed book. All you'll need to do is search for the dog breeds you believe are similar to your own, and then examine their features and behavior to see if you've really got it right.

How to Identify a Dog's Breed - See a list of dog breeds

Talk to your vet

If you've still not been able to find out your dog's breed after following the above process, or you still have many lingering doubts, talk to your vet and ask them about it. They're an expert and they've seen thousands of different dogs; they'll surely be able to point you in the right direction.

Even if your dog is a mongrel of different breeds, you'll be able to detect the prominent breeds of your dog with a DNA test, which are sold in vet clinics and can be performed by the specialist themselves. All you need to do is collect the saliva from inside the dog's mouth, perform the test and wait for the result.

How to Identify a Dog's Breed - Talk to your vet

Breed is unimportant

If you've finally worked out the breed of your dog and they are not what you were told when you picked them up or bought them, don't be angry. The dog's breed is the last thing which they should be judged on, and you shouldn't pay any attention to it.

Both pedigree dogs and crossbreeds are great companions and will give you lots of happiness throughout your life.

Remember to give your dog the basic care and attention that it requires, such as a balanced diet, daily exercise, hygiene and training.

How to Identify a Dog's Breed - Breed is unimportant

If you want to read similar articles to How to Identify a Dog's Breed, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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What breed is this she weighs 40 pounds short soft hair
Could someone help me with this boy we baleive he’s a staffie mix
Would you happen to know what type of husky my dog is from this pic. He also has one blue eye and his other eye is half brown and half blue. His fur is a reddish brown and of course some white to.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Emily,

They look like a Siberian Husky to us. The eye condition is known as heterochromia and is relatively common in this breed.
While the article is interesting, I disagree with the conclusion. Breed contributors to a mixed dog are important. They can give you clues as to future medical problems that may come up. Some breeds are more prone to cancers, sensitive to medications or subject to skeletal problems as they mature. Knowing the breeds that contribute to your dog is as important as humans knowing the health history of their parents.
Richard Taylor
I find this article a fascinating read. We take delivery of a new pup next week, i'm thinking he is a Bull terrier/Whippet but that seems a very unlikely combo! Another site says Australian Cattle dog, but hes not that either i'm sure. Please see photo, we would love to know your thoughts.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Richard,

Thank you for posting this adorable picture. We can never be sure, but we would suggest this dog might be a Bull Terrier and Jack Russel mix. We suggest this by the markings on the coat along with their head shape and general morphology.
Hi, I don't have a picture just yet, but I will get you one soon!
Can you help with mine? I'm not sure if it is a lab or a retriver?? Mayu even be both, that possible?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Terzi,

If you want to send a picture, we can take a look and have a guess for you? Knowing the dog's history is the best way, but even that can make it difficult.
A dog's breed is really interesting, but you're right, it's unimportant when it comes to loving them. Adopt don't shop!
Abhiraj singh
Please choose my dogs breeds
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Abhiraj,

This dog is a beautiful creature, but they do not seem to be one single breed which means they are a mongrel or mixed breed dog. We can say they look like a medium sized dog with a short dense coat. They have a long muzzle and some dark markings around the nose. This means they are not a pug, Pekingese or any other small snub-nosed canines. There could be some German Shepherd in there, perhaps even Labrador. Their long legs and ears suggest possible Greyhound or Whippet blood, but we can't say for sure. What we can say for sure is that it doesn't matter as long as they are well loved.
I like some of the stuff in this article however I can't as we with "Breed is unimportant " Knowledge of which breed the dog is important because you need to anticipate the behaviors and over all need of the dog. I know a lot of animals are mixed and sometimes you just can't be sure but it's important to come as close as you can to accommodate the needs of your pet. For example, dogs that are mixed with high drive breeds will need more exercise and perhaps will not make good multiple animal household pets. Knowing the breed or parts of the breed will give you insight into which dog that will match to your lifestyle and it's temperament. It's not about popping down to your local shelter and seeing a cute pup and saying "hey it's cute, the kids will love him" and then 6 months later you have a dog with a sport drive that needs 2 hrs a day flat out ball chasing or it's tearing up EVERYTHING because it's mixed with pit or lab or shepherd but hey you have kids to care for and a job so the animal doesn't get the lifestyle it needs because the owner didnt know its BREED and what that breed requires. Know what you are getting into by KNOWING the breed. Knowledge is always important.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Abby,

Thanks for your comment. We understand that some breeds carry certain traits and that there are generalizations one can make about a particular breed (this is why we post the breed files on this site). What the section titled ‘Breed is Unimportant’ means is that each dog is an individual.

Pedigree goes some way in explaining its behavior, but more important is that the dog is treated with care, given positive reinforcement and is provided with a loving home. A dog's behavior will have more to do with its treatment while young (socialization, etc.) than its breed. The other factor is that some people get hung up on breeds and expect certain things. They may then be disappointed if an individual dog exhibits different characteristics.

Lastly, some people see getting a pedigree as being the ultimate. However, mongrel dogs not only make amazing pets, but their greater genetic diversity often makes them live longer and avoid certain issues. Mixed breed dogs need just as much love as any pedigree.

We hope we have clarified the section and we also hope you know that none of this goes against your point over using the breed type to anticipate certain needs and behaviors. It is important for every future dog owner to try their best to get a dog which will best suit their lifestyle. It can be hard going without it.

Thanks again!
Melissa Moore
This is our puppy wana find out what crossed with
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Melissa,

We can't promise to know what type of dog it is, but add a picture to your next comment and we'll do what we can!
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How to Identify a Dog's Breed